HAVANA (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI spent more than 40 minutes meeting privately with Cuban President Raul Castro and asked the Cuban leader for further freedoms for the Catholic Church in Cuba and attention to certain “humanitarian” situations. Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, told reporters late March 27 that while he could not give the press details about the humanitarian cases raised during the meeting, the pope did give Castro specific names of people in detention or suffering for other reasons the government was in a position to help alleviate. The pope also asked the government to consider declaring Good Friday a public holiday, Father Lombardi said, adding that the pope explained the significance for Catholics of the day commemorating Jesus’ death. The pope said he hoped that, just as Blessed John Paul II’s trip to Cuba in 1998 led to Cuba recognizing Christmas as a public holiday, he hoped Castro’s government would do the same with Good Friday. Father Lombardi said Castro did not make a decision at the meeting about Good Friday, nor did the pope expect him to, but he hoped the Cuban government would consider the request. The spokesman said the pope expressed his pleasure at how church-state relations had improved over the last 14 years and expressed his hope for “further developments” so that the church could increase its contributions to Cuban society.